Understanding your Teenager – The Action Plan

Last week I discussed the teenage brain from a scientific perspective and from a parents! This week, I have some tips for you to help you manage the relationship between you and your teenager.

The relationship – what’s happening?

This can be a time of great turmoil and conflict in the home. The adolescent is typically striving for independence and beginning to push away from their parents. They want more control of their lives, want to make the decisions for themselves and know all there is to know about everything! This is a time for power struggles as they dangle you the carrot or throw you the rope just waiting for you to take the bait – the game is on. I would strongly advise that you try and disengage in these moments as the fight that may follow will serve only to damage the relationship and push them away. They are transitioning from being dependent to wanting more independence.

Do not be mistaken, they still need you, in fact, more than ever, they just have a funny way of showing it!

What can you do?

  • Connection         Connection        Connection…….
  • Maintain and preserve the relationship
  • Connect with them as much as they will let you. When the opportunity arises, try not to miss out on it and yes, it may be at times that are not convenient to you but it is so vitally important. They really need you right now
  • Find ways to connect with them:
    •             Watch a TV series together
    •             Read a magazine together
    •             Table Topics offer great in roads to stimulating conversation:
    •                         http://www.tabletopics.com/Teen-Edition-Cube
    •             Trawl the iTunes store together listening to music
    •             Walk the dog – sometimes it’s easier to walk and talk than sit and talk
    •             Chat in the car rather than listening to the music
    •             Learn a new skill together, one that’s new for both of you
  • Join them in following some of their passions and guide them to partake in these activities safely
  • Avoid reactivity and criticism as it pushes them away
  • Whatever you “want” to say to them and feel they “should” hear will probably fall on deaf ears and if said may just create more conflict
  • When they have made a poor choice, invariably they know they have. The last thing they need is to have it pointed out to them. Try instead to validate their feelings and empathize with them. Hard as it may seem, it might just keep the lines of communication more open and encourage integration
  • The less said in the heat of the moment the better
  • Use the times when you are connected to them to reflect on the times that perhaps haven’t gone so well. These receptive moments are good times for reflecting and giving advice
  • Let them know that you love them and are always there to help or support when they need it
  • Let them know that you have trust in them and have faith in them to manage their decisions
  • Encourage them as this will give them courage to handle things that comes their way
  • Increase empathetic understanding and respectful communication to create integration across the generations
  • Try to take the “high road” and be a good role model, don’t get drawn down to their level. Two on the low road gets you nowhere
  • Try to cut them some slack because by and large they can’t help being like this right now, their brains are in transition
  • Try to see the power and potential of the teenage brain and the emerging adolescent mind as assets rather than liabilities
  • Try to read “Brainstorm” by Daniel J. Siegel as it will really help both you and your teenager

This is a time to embrace your adolescent, see them for all the energy and vitality that lies within each and every one of them. The remodeling of the cortex during this period enables conceptual thinking and creative exploration to emerge and blossom. We want to channel this in positive ways, harness the good and help them make the most of this potentially exciting time for them. This is an emotionally vibrant, socially connected and novelty-seeking time in their lives (the ES.SE.N.CE of adolescence), let’s honor this drive for novelty and the creation of new explorations, help them optimize opportunity and above all, keep them safe whilst they transition into adulthood.

If you have any other ideas for maintaining a connection with your teenager, I would love to hear from you. I hope that you have found this helpful.



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